Annie Hall (1977)

“A relationship, I think, is like a shark. You know? It has to constantly move forward or it dies. And I think what we got on our hands is a dead shark.”

Synopsis:
A neurotic comedian (Woody Allen) falls in love with an aspiring singer (Diane Keaton), but they’re ultimately too mismatched to last.

Genres:

Response to Peary’s Review:
Peary notes that “Woody Allen’s first genuine comedy masterpiece is an autobiographical, therapeutic work” in which his on-screen alter-ego, a stand-up comedian named Alvy Singer, “thinks back on his relationship with an equally neurotic” aspiring singer, played by his former girlfriend (Keaton, whose real-life last name was Hall, and whose nickname was Annie). He argues that the “film is very perceptive and romantic in addition to being hilarious” — indeed, it’s amazing how easily we can laugh at and enjoy the proceedings of the film, given that we know from the beginning how things will end for Alvy and Annie. Peary notes that “the two characters are real and we root for them to work out their problems; but, like Alvy, we come to realize that they were meant to be no more than positive influences on each other during difficult, transitional times in their respective lives.” He points out how “sweet” Alvy’s final comment is “at the end” of the film — a moment that’s guaranteed (even on repeat viewings) to bring a lump to your throat.

Peary spends part of his review in both GFTFF and Alternate Oscars — where, like the Academy, he designates Annie Hall as Best Picture of the Year — naming some of the picture’s “so many great moments” (indeed, it’s difficult to resist doing this — my stills below attest to my own challenge in picking just a few scenes to highlight!). These include the classic balcony scene, “during which Allen provides subtitles that reveal what each is really thinking (both worry they’re blowing it with each other)”; “Alvy silencing an obnoxious, self-impressed, self-professed [Marshall] McLuhan expert who talks pretentious drivel in a movie line by pulling McLuhan out of a poster to tell the man, ‘You know nothing of my work'”; “Alvy battling monstrous spiders in Annie’s bathtub;” “Grammy Hall look[ing] at Alvy and… see[ing] him as an Hassidic Jew with a long black beard, curls, black hat, and black frock coat”; Alvy “sneez[ing] $2,000 worth of cocaine across a room”; and many, many more.

In his review of Annie Hall for his third Cult Movies book, Peary writes that “it’s safe to say that every Woody Allen film has a cult following”, but “only Annie Hall is loved… by every Allen fan, as well as those obstinate moviegoers who still won’t concede Allen is a great filmmaker.” (One wonders what Peary would think at this point about Allen’s most recent spate of lackluster films… But I’m still more than willing to agree with his assessment.) He notes that “it’s actually hard to find someone who hasn’t seen this irresistible movie several times, who doesn’t have a tender spot for it…, who wouldn’t make it the Woody Allen film they’d like to have if stranded on a desert island”. He further notes the historical relevance of the film by writing that it “marked Allen’s transition from a functional and slapdash, though instinctively funny, filmmaker to one who is technically innovative, thematically sophisticated, intent on capturing the beauty of the women and the city (New York) he loves, eager to explore his characters, and passionate about using the storytelling medium to its fullest”. To that end, one little-discussed aspect of Annie Hall is how cinematically creative it is — see Tim Dirk’s Greatest Films site for an overview of the many techniques Allen employs throughout the film.

Redeeming Qualities and Moments:

  • Diane Keaton as Annie Hall (awarded Best Actress of the Year in his Alternate Oscars)
  • Woody Allen as Alvy Singer (nominated by Peary as one of the Best Actors of the Year in Alternate Oscars)
  • Countless memorable scenes





  • Fine use of New York City locales
  • Creative cinematic techniques

  • Plenty of laugh-out-loud one-liners:

    “You know, I don’t think I could take a mellow evening because I don’t respond well to mellow, you know what I mean? I have a tendency to, if I get too mellow, I ripen and then rot.”

Must See?
Yes, most definitely — multiple times. Enjoy!

Categories

(Listed in 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die)

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One Response to “Annie Hall (1977)”

  1. A no-brainer must; probably the Woody Allen pic that film lovers (if not fanatics) relate to most – not because of any of the specifics of the film, but because nearly everyone has been through a nice-if-difficult relationship at one time or another and will filter that experience through this film. Brilliance of the piece aside, I would imagine its universality is why it won the Oscar (surprise though that was, given the track record of the Academy).

    If I rarely go back to this film, it’s because I can’t get past how depressing it is just under the surface (and occasionally front and center). Seeing it again just now, I found myself wondering what kind of discussion Allen and Keaton must have had regarding the decision to make the film. How long had they been apart? Did they talk about how the making of the film might help heal certain wounds? Had they decided quickly enough to remain friends and did they feel the project would be a creative stimulant for them both?

    To be sure, it’s also a very funny work – meaning that plenty of laughs are peppered throughout.

    Some faves:

    – Shelley Duvall (in bed with Allen): Sex with you is really a Kafka-esque experience. …I mean that as a compliment.

    – Allen (re: Californians): They don’t throw their garbage away. They turn it into television shows.

    – Pretentious party guest from tv or film: Right now it’s only a notion. But I think I can get money to make it into a concept. And then later turn it into an idea.

    Heck, there’s even an amusing animated sequence. So, yes, there’s quite a bit to stave off the reality that love hurts. But it can hurt, especially when the two involved are as insecure as Annie and Alvy are. The relationship is presented in a ‘warts and all’ fashion – both parties are at times shown to be childish. (Though Keaton probably comes off better overall in how her ‘Annie’ is presented.) Still, there’s an attraction between them – palpable; just not the kind that could lead to something mutually satisfying. Except as friends. Luckily they get to that point (which makes the film’s final brief sequences touching).

    The film (to me, anyway) reflects the desire some of us have to be part of something special, not just a relationship for its own sake but something that has genuine meaning. So naturally we also end up feeling how rare a thing that can be to come across (and how something can’t be forced if it isn’t there). It’s very true that “we keep going through it because most of us need the eggs” – but there are tons of ways to serve up eggs; everything from once-over-easy to the best omelette you ever had.

    On a side note: I remember the first time I saw ‘Annie Hall’. I had just moved to NYC and, for some reason, I was talking on the phone with a friend near Boston – someone slightly older than me, and on whom I had quite a crush. He had just broken up with someone and invited me to visit, which I did. I’m not sure either of us knew Allen’s latest was anything other than a comedy but, during my visit, we went to see it. Obviously, watching the film was pretty rough-going for my friend and his crushed heart. But as for my own crush…well, for me, it was the kind of visit I’d long been waiting for.

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